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Do you owe your brain a sleep debt?

by Randy Moll | November 7, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.

Changing our clocks back this time of year can be an opportunity to catch up on lost sleep.

You might think an hour of sleep loss here or there is not a big deal, but as with money, the more we borrow, the harder it is to deal with the deficit. A study in Scientific Reports claims it would take four days of sufficient rest to pay back an hour of sleep debt.

It's not just about borrowed time -- lack of sleep can be dangerous. People who owe a sleep debt have higher rates of workplace injuries, and those injuries are often severe. It's clear how this could happen.

Short-term sleep deprivation causes brain fog, forgetfulness and impaired driving. In fact, if you're awake 24 hours, the CDC reports it's like having a 0.10% blood alcohol concentration (above the legal limit). Owing a sleep debt long-term also raises the risks of obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease and high blood pressure.

So what can we do to ensure we're not over our heads in sleep debt?

The National Sleep Foundation says we need at least seven hours of sleep per night to feel rested, but over 70% of Americans fail to get that much rest. They suspect we lose 30 to 60-minute sleep increments due to school, work and using electronics. So, if you're scrolling social media in bed, cut off your screens 30 minutes to an hour before you go to sleep. The blue light from your phone prevents melatonin production (the sleep-wake cycle hormone).

Another sleep-friendly tip is to pay more attention to your lighting. Experts say light plays a big part in our circadian rhythms -- and a time change means a change in sunlight. The CDC suggests we assist our internal clocks by exposing ourselves to sunlight or bright indoor light during working hours/before nightfall. However, we should dim light levels at least two hours before bed. If we wake too early or get up to go to the bathroom at midnight, we should keep the lights off until we're ready to start our days.

With these tips, you might be able to stay (sleep) debt-free. If you're experiencing sleep problems, speak with your physician. If you're looking for a provider, visit NW-Physicians.com to find one near you and even schedule your next appointment online.

About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is a licensed 73-bed facility with 42 private patient rooms. It is accredited by the State of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Some services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. With more than 50 physicians on the medical staff, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital provides compassionate, customer-focused care. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health, the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs. For more information, visit NorthwestHealth.com.

Print Headline: Do you owe your brain a sleep debt?

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